How many times have you wished that you had more time? For me it used to be a weekly wish- if not a daily one sometimes! When you are running your own business time management and prioritisation is an essential skill and yet so many of our clients tell us how difficult they find it. In fact, only this week I have talked to two business owners who are working long hours and they still feel like they are going backwards.
So, what is the answer? I wish it were simple but unfortunately its not. However, there are some great tips you can follow which will improve the situation and help you to cut through the rubbish and find time for the really important things.
The Time Management Matrix is one of my favourite tools. Developed by Steven Covey it really helps me and my clients to see where their time is going and to make adjustments.
Many of us find ourselves spending a lot of our time in quadrant I; handling emergencies, firefighting, dealing with short deadlines from our clients solving immediate problems. This can be fun- we all like to feel like the hero who has saved the day from time to time but doing this sort of activity long term is exhausting and stressful. Quadrant III can be a real thief of our time – dealing with unnecessary emails, phone calls and meetings can absorb a whole day if you let them. These activities may seem important in the moment but if you can step back and really think about them you realise they don’t help you achieve your goals or move your business forward. You need to be ruthless (and disciplined) and say no to these activities. Quadrant IV is often where we find ourselves when we get overwhelmed- you just don’t know where to start, everything seems too hard, so you just find yourself procrastinating, surfing the net or getting distracted with social media. STOP!!! Take a break get some fresh air and let the stress go!!
Quadrant II is the sweet spot where we need to spend time, but which most often gets pushed aside. The irony is that if we can spend quality time in this area the urgent important tasks diminish. We therefore spend less time firefighting and can breathe a little easier. That in turn stops us from getting overwhelmed and therefore we also stop spending excessive time in quadrant IV. Unfortunately, it doesn’t generally reduce the demands of Quadrant III – only our own discipline in pushing those tasks away can do that.
So here is my advise:
If you are a planner who likes to make “to do” lists each morning and cross them off as you go then try making your list on this matrix. What are you planning to spend your time doing? Have you planned in some QII time? You will need some time off (QIV) so make sure you take a break at lunchtime, go for a walk, phone a friend, make some lunch and eat it away from your desk. This will ensure you are fresh to make the most of the “working” portion of your day.
If you are a reflector then at the end of each day take out the matrix and see where your day has been spent. How much did you achieve? How were your energy levels at different parts of the day? What has worked for you? What would you do differently if you could have this day over again? What does that mean for tomorrow?
I hope this helps some of you get clarity and prioritise your important tasks more effectively. If you’d like further help with this then do get in touch – let’s get some QII time, share a coffee and talk.